Last year after the Trayvon Martin verdict, I reposted the writing of Donald Watkins, a successful African American businessman by any measure and parent who loves his children. He found himself expressing age-old advice to his sons who were supposedly living in “post-racial America,” led by the nation’s first openly known African American president.
And now, virtually a year later, after the Jordan Davis trial, more black parents and their sons are expressing the same fears that haunted the steps of their forefathers. Like Donald Watkin’s piece, I felt compelled to share the blog post of another young black male who questions how to navigate in his own country. What follows are the thoughts of Miles Ezeilo:
I get scared every time I turn on the news now. My thoughts on the verdict of Jordan Davis, the 17-year-old young African American man who was shot to death by Michael Dunn are simple: as a black boy in this day and age, my trust and sense of safety is dwindling as I write this.
First Trayvon Martin, then Renisha McBride, and now Jordan Davis, as well as too many others to name. What is the news telling me when people that look just like me are getting murdered just because? To me this means that America is a long way away from Martin’s dream of people being judged by the content of their character. To me this means that even though we have a black president, things are definitely not perfect. And to me this means that some white people still don’t know that they’re not just killing three-fifths of a person anymore.
This entire case hits home for me because Jordan Davis could have been a lot of people I know. He could have been my cousins who live in Florida. He could have been my brother Cole. He could have been me.
Over the course of two years since Trayvon was killed, my mental process and the way I hold myself in public has changed, without a doubt. I’m constantly evaluating and questioning myself: should I change the way I am because of other people?
My answer is always, no, probably not. But do I change myself because it keeps me safe? Yes, definitely. I try to distance myself from any sort of commotion or conflict happening around me because I know it’s too easy for someone to come along and make me a suspect. I try to be extra nice to strangers so they don’t get the wrong impression. And unless it’s negative 20 below zero, I’ll take a hat, not a hood. And I’m not a “thug” in any way, shape, or form. I get good grades, I try to use manners when I need to, and always try to keep a smile on my face. But I know that that doesn’t mean a thing to someone who is threatened by me. By the skin I’m in. Because racists and even regular people who let stereotypes push their fear don’t see me as a complete individual with good home training and good morals. All they see is dark pigment walking down the street and they’re ready to pull the trigger.
Although Michael Dunn is going to prison for his wrong-doing, it still doesn’t feel right. After all, somebody going to prison doesn’t mean the event didn’t happen. Jordan Davis’ parents still mourn, and we still lost a valuable life and teenage black boys like me are still hearing the message loud and clear: it’s open season on us.
Plus, the murder of Jordan Davis isn’t even the reason why Dunn is going to jail! He’s going to jail for what? For almost killing Jordan Davis’ friends who were in the car, and for shooting deadly missiles. Not because he shot somebody in cold blood for no reason, but because he didn’t kill more people and was using a gun. This brings me to another force that I clearly can’t trust: The American criminal justice system.
Why is it that my father tells me not to confront the police even in times of danger? Because all too often, the police and the criminals have the same mindset: “Let’s get rid of all these brown faces once and for all.” How come those 11 jurors and that judge could not come up with the verdict that was staring them right in the face? I don’t know. I can’t quite comprehend how a fear gives someone the right to take someone’s life.
Honestly, I feel like the verdict answers to a fear of making too many people mad. This phobia is the same one that the jurors of Trayvon’s case had, and it was the same one that the jurors in Troy Davis’ case had back in 2011. I can’t help but to think that the American criminal justice system is set up to condone the loss of a black life rather than anger the white community it serves.
So I say all this to say that I’m severely heartbroken, not just because of the case, but because it has been officially made clear that too many white Americans don’t consider black boys as citizens or even human beings. Do you think this would have been a problem if a group of white guys were blasting Tim McGraw? My guess is no. Because that wouldn’t be “thug music.”
My heart goes out to the parents and family of Jordan Davis. Mr. Davis and Mrs. McBath: I am painfully sorry that your son had to be a victim of White America. I don’t know, maybe next time I’ll turn down Chief Keef and turn up Taylor Swift when I’m driving in the part of the country I supposedly can call home. Maybe that will save my life.
Reposted with permission from the February, 18th blog post Miles Ezeilo at The Dark Lens.